Sans security, inmates in state-run camp live in fear of MaoistsJanuary 31st, 2009 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS
Bangapal (Chhattisgarh), Jan 31 (IANS) This is a government-run relief camp within Bastar, the region in Chhattisgarh that is the nerve-centre of India’s Maoist militancy. Over two hundred people fled the area to live here. But there has been not a single guard at the camp for nearly two years, leaving the inmates at the mercy of the armed rebels.”It’s not possible to provide security to every man in Bastar,” says the state’s police chief.
The 228 people are from 68 tribal families of Belnar village in Bijapur district. They fled their homes in late 2005 and the government settled them at a relief camp in Bangapal village, one of 23 such camps in Bastar.
Maoists opened fire on the Bangapal camp on March 26, 2007. There were securitymen then, who returned fire and forced the rebels to flee. But a month later, all the securitymen were removed. The residents have been living in fear since then.
The residents are shocked by the authorities’ lack of response to their repeated pleas for security cover, similar to that provided to the other 22 camps. Around 50,000 people have been living in these camps since the authorities started a civil militia movement, Salwa Judum, against the Maoists in June 2005.
“We are spending each night under fear of terrorist attack,” 38-year-old Budhram told IANS. He was once headman of Belnar village before all the residents crossed the Indravati river for fear of Maoists and moved 15 km to settle in this camp.
“Civilians living in relief camp are always the soft target for militants because they find it tough to take on securitymen. But it’s not possible for the police to provide security to each and every man in Bastar,” Vishwa Ranjan, Chhattisgarh’s director general of police, told IANS when asked about the withdrawal of securitymen from the Bangapal camp.
In 2007, camp inmate Munna Mourya got a job as a special police officer (SPO). Even he is terrified after the withdrawal of the securitymen.
“I work at the Nelasnar police station which is more than a kilometre from the camp. When I finish my duty, I have to deposit my arms at the police station and get back to camp and live there totally unarmed,” Mourya, 26, told IANS.
“We’re all living at the mercy of Maoists, not a single policeman is here to counter them if we are attacked. Authorities say if there’s an emergency, they’ll come to our help from the police station. But we all know that whenever Maoists attacked relief camps they first attacked the security men. So how will they help us?” the SPO asked.
“We want to know why security was withdrawn from our camp,” Mourya said. “The government seems to be punishing us for waging a war against Maoists.”
(Sujeet Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tags: authorities, budhram, chhattisgarh, civilians, director general, living in fear, maoist, maoists, militancy, militants, militia movement, nerve centre, police chief, rebels, security inmates, soft target, special police officer, terrorist attack, tribal families, vishwa ranjan